The Naval Gold Medal awarded to Captain Eliab Harvey who served aboard H.M.S. Temeraire,
Lot 186
The Naval Gold Medal for Trafalgar awarded to Captain Eliab Harvey, in command of H.M.S. Temeraire,
Sold for £ 95,200 (US$ 126,494) inc. premium

Lot Details
The Naval Gold Medal for Trafalgar awarded to Captain Eliab Harvey, in command of H.M.S. Temeraire,
Small Naval Gold Medal, 38mm, engraved on the reverse (Eliab Harvey Esqr Captain of H.M.S. Temeraire on the 21 October MDCCCV The Combined Fleets of France and Spain Defeated). With original riband and a gold buckle. Extremely fine. (1)


  • Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey GCB (1758-1830), was the second son of William Harvey, MP, of Rolls Park, Chigwell, Essex, and great-grandson of Eliab Harvey, brother of William Harvey, discoverer of the circulation of blood. He entered the Navy in 1771, and served as a Midshipman under Lord Howe during the American War of Independence. In 1803 he was appointed Captain of the "Temeraire", and after Trafalgar received the thanks of Parliament and Lord Collingwood, a gold medal, a sword of Honour from the Lloyd's Patriotic Fund and was promoted Rear-Admiral. He was one of the pall- bearers at Nelson's funeral. For many years he sat as MP for Essex. He also had a reputation as a fearless gambler and, according to Horace Walpole, once came within a throw of losing his estate. In 1809 he was court-martialled for insubordination and dismissed the service, although, in recognition of his great services, was later reinstated by Order in Council. He was made a full Admiral in 1819.

    Only 27 Small Gold Medals, one to each captain involved, were awarded for Trafalgar.

    "Temeraire" had been built in 1798 and took her unusual name from a French prize, captured by Admiral Boscawen in Lagos Bay in 1759.
    At 98 guns she was a second-rate ship-of-the-line and like a first-rate (of 100 guns or more) was a three-decker, something which in battle gave her considerable advantage over lower ships. At the onset of Trafalgar, as Nelson's two columns sailed slowly towards the French and Spanish Combined Fleet newly come out of Cadiz, it was nervously suggested to the Admiral that he shift his flag from the "Victory". It was obvious, from his plan of battle that the first ship to break the enemy line would be subjected to massive fire. Nelson refused to change his ship but he did -for a while- agree that the "Temeraire" should lead "Victory" into battle. Then he counter-manded his order. Meanwhile Captain Harvey of the "Temeraire" struggled to overtake the "Victory". In Carola Oman's account: "when, half an hour before the "Victory" opened fire, the "Temeraire", having been signalled at 12.15 to take her place astern, ranged up on the "Victory's" quarter, Nelson, said, I'll thank you Captain Harvey, to keep in your proper station, which is astern of the "Victory"".

    In the account Captain Harvey sent home to his wife, he wrote: " It was noon before the action commenced which was done according to the instructions given to us by Lord Nelson. The first ship in action was the "Royal Sovereign" with Vice Admiral Collingwood's flag on board. I did not see any other ship engage before Lord Nelson opened his fire on the enemy- they having opened fire upon him- and from the "Santissima-Trinidada" about 10 minutes as well as from several other ships ahead of her. The "Temeraire" at this time almost touched the stern of the "Victory" which station she had taken about? hour previous to the enemy having commenced their fire upon the "Victory", in consequence of a signal from the "Victory". You are to understand from this statement that we bore down upon the enemy in two columns, the Weather column led by the Commander in Chief/ the Lee one by Vice Admiral Collingwood, which occasioned my being astern instead of the "Victory", but Lord Nelson had sent to me and given me leave to lead and break through the enemy's lines about the 14th ship from the "Vanguard", but afterwards made the signal referred to above. From this period for two hours we were so nearly engaged that I can give you no other account of this part of the most glorious day's work than what immediately concerned the "Victory" or myself. We were engaged with the "S.Trinidada" and the other ships for perhaps 20 minutes or more, where for a minute or two I ceased my fire, fearing I might from the thickness of the smoke, be firing into the "Victory", but I soon saw the "Victory" close on board a French ship of two decks, and having the ship under command notwithstanding we had suffered much in our masts and sails. I placed the ship so as to give the Redoubtable a most severe dressing by raking her fore and aft, however the "Victory" fell on board of her and she struck, and soon after they came on board the "Temeraire", so that the Frenchman was exactly between the two ships, being upon my Larboard side. Some time previous to this finding I could do nothing further with the ship, I had commenced upon another ship with my Larboard guns, and very soon put her into so disabled a state that we fell on board her also, I soon forced her to strike, and sent Lieut Kennedy my first with a party of men to secure this prize, and finding the "Victory" had got clear from the "Redoubtable" I sent my second Lieut to secure her, and this is all I have from my own observation the power to mention.....
    The state of the "Temeraire" is so bad we have been in constant apprehension of our lives, every sail and yarn having been destroyed and nothing but the lower masts left standing. The rudderhead almost shot through and is since quite gone, and lower masts all shot through and through in many places..."

    In the words of Admiral Collingwood, "Nothing could be finer, I have no words in which I can sufficiently express my admiration of it".

    The Temeraire is probably best known from the world famous painting 'The Fighting Temeraire' by Joseph Mallord William Turner hanging in the National Gallery, London. The importance of the painting to the artist himself is evident from the fact that he never sold what he called 'My Darling'. On the 6th. September 1838 Turner was seen on board a Margate steamer sketching the passage of the Temeraire upriver to Beatson's ship breaking yard at Rotherhithe. We know from contemporary newspaper reports that Turner did more than simply record the event as he saw it; he invested a certain amount of artistic licence into his portrayal - for example, the Temeraire was towed by two tugs, whereas Turner singles out a sole, proud steamer to emphasise its juxtaposition with the old warrior, which had, in reality been stripped of all her masts, sails and rigging. Another observer later testified that the artist also invented the spectacular sunset, which draws such a poignant parallel with the passing of the old warship. Turner's romanticised vision thus represented the demise of the age of sail, displaying his life-long fascination with both the old idyllic seascapes and landscapes and the new industrial age of steam.

Saleroom notices

  • This Gold Medal, awarded to Captain Harvey, is an official replacement given to him after his original was stolen.
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